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Blues - Released September 16, 1979 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Gallagher's fourth and final studio set for Chrysalis finds the Irish blues-rocker in prime form. Arriving only a year after Photo-Finish, when he spent much of his time on the road, it's remarkable that Gallagher could continue to churn out the hook-heavy high-quality tunes he wrote for this album. Playing larger arenas toughened his songs and attack, almost all of which here are high-octane sweaty rockers. While that makes for some thrilling, intense music, the nonstop vibrant energy rush is never balanced out with a ballad or even the rootsy, swampy blues that Gallagher always performed with such authority. So even though the opening charging riff of "Follow Me"; the slower, urging groove of "Keychain"; and the melodic, relatively subtle hard rock of "Bad Penny" were notable inclusions to the Gallagher catalog and his concerts, the lack of acoustic tunes or less aggressive music gives the album a one-note feel. This isn't helped by the two additional tracks added for the 1999 reissue, both of which stay locked in the same basic hard-edged format. That said, Gallagher and his backing duo are in top form, churning through the songs with remarkably crisp energy. Rory is starting to shout more than sing, but his voice was still powerfully expressive, and when he gets excited on the double-time, cranked up "Just Hit Town" as he overdubs his patented guitar lines, the blues-rocker's guttural screams make it sound like he's on fire. Gallagher also blows some snarling, overdriven harp for the first time in a while on "Off the Handle," one of the album's moodier tracks, and sounds enthusiastic throughout. Except for the lack of diversity, this remains a strong set from the Irishman, and is highly recommended, especially to his less blues-oriented fans. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo
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Blues - Released October 24, 1976 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Blues - Released September 16, 1979 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Blues - Released November 28, 1971 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Blues - Released October 24, 1976 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Gallagher's second album for Chrysalis -- and last with his longstanding trio of Lou Martin (keyboards), Rod De'Ath (drums) and Gerry McAvoy (bass) -- was a milestone in his career. Although Calling Card was produced by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover and not surprisingly contained some of his most powerfully driving rockers, tracks like the acoustic "Barley & Grape Rag" and the jazzy, soulful, finger snapping title cut -- a perennial concert favorite -- found the Irish rocker not only exploring other musical paths, but also caught him on one of his most consistent songwriting streaks ever. Even "Do You Read Me," the muscular opening track, is a remarkably stripped-down affair that adds subtle synths to the rugged blues rock that was Gallagher's claim to fame. While "Moonchild," "Country Mile," and "Secret Agent" displayed catchy hooks, engaging riffs, and raging guitar work (the latter adds a touch of Deep Purple's Jon Lord-styled organ to the proceedings), it's the elegant ballad "I'll Admit You're Gone" that shifts the guitarist into calmer waters and proves his melodic talent was just as cutting on quieter tunes. And it's a crime that the gorgeous "Edged in Blue," certainly one of the artist's saddest and most beautiful pop melodies, was overlooked in his catalog. The 1999 reissue sports track-by-track and first person liner notes from Gallagher's brother Donal, crisp remastered sound, and two additional songs not included on previous versions, one of which, "Public Enemy (B-Girl Version)," later appeared on the Photo-Finish album in an inferior performance to this. Arguably Rory Gallagher's finest studio effort, it was among his best and most varied batch of songs, and it is a perfect place for the curious to start their collection as well as an essential disc showing Gallagher at the peak of his powers. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo
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Blues - Released October 1, 1978 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Blues - Released November 28, 1971 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Released in November 1971, just six months after his solo debut, Rory Gallagher's second album was the summation of all that he'd promised in the wake of Taste's collapse, and the blueprint for most of what he'd accomplish over the next two years of recording. Largely overlooked by posterity's haste to canonize his next album, Live! In Europe, Deuce finds Gallagher torn between the earthy R&B of "Used to Be," a gritty blues fed through by some viciously unrestrained guitar playing, and the jokey, country-billy badinage of "Don't Know Where I'm Going," a too-short snippet that marries Bob Dylan to Ronnie Lane and reminds listeners just how broad Gallagher's sense of humor was. Reflecting the laid-back feel of Rory Gallagher, "I'm Not Awake Yet" is a largely acoustic piece driven as much by Gerry McAvoy's gutbucket bass as by Gallagher's intricate playing; "There's a Light", too, plays to Gallagher's sensitive side, while stating his mastery of the guitar across a protracted solo that isn't simply spellbinding in its restraint, it also has the effect of adding another voice to the proceedings. But such notions of plaintive melodicism are utterly exorcised by the moments of highest drama, a sequence that peaks with the closing, broiling "Crest of a Wave." With bass set on stun, the drums a turbulent wall of sound, and Gallagher's guitar a sonic switchblade, it's a masterpiece of aggressive dynamics, the sound of a band so close to its peak that you can almost touch the electricity. Of course, that peak would come during 1972-1973 with the albums upon which Gallagher's reputation is today most comfortably set. Deuce, however, doesn't simply set the stage for the future, it strikes the light that ignites the entire firestorm. © Dave Thompson /TiVo
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Blues - Released October 1, 1978 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Remixed and expanded (with two additional tracks recorded but chopped off the vinyl version) for its debut on CD in 1999, this is a sturdy, workmanlike Rory Gallagher release. Reverting back to a trio, Gallagher toughens up his sound and blazes through some robust blues rockers like "Last of the Independents," "Shadow Play," and "Brute Force & Ignorance" (one of his best hard rock riffs) with nervy energy. Gallagher's swampy side emerges on "Cloak & Dagger," another song that explores his fascination with B-movie gumshoes, a common theme for the Irish blues-rocker. His guitar work is typically excellent throughout, especially on "Overnight Bag," as he overdubs himself on acoustic. Still, the album has a samey feel due to some of the songwriting not being quite up to snuff, and a few tracks, like the moody, slow-burning "Fuel to the Fire," stretched well past its breaking point to over six minutes. Of the two additional tunes, "Early Warning" is a typically rugged chunky rocker, and "Juke Box Annie" explores the guitarist's jaunty, slightly funky country style. Neither is essential, but both will be important finds for the Gallagher collector. Brother Dónal's liner and track notes are short yet informative, and the sound is an enormous improvement over the original version. There is a remarkable clarity and fullness to the bass, along with a definition that exposes heretofore unheard instruments like the mandolin on "Brute Force..." and handclaps on "Cruise on Out," both previously buried in the mix. Not a great Rory Gallagher album, but a rock-solid one that won't disappoint established fans. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo
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Blues - Released November 2, 1980 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Blues - Released November 2, 1980 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Guitarist Gallagher's third officially released live album (during his lifetime) captures him on a grinding world tour in 1979 and 1980, pumping out blues-rockers with requisite aggression, yet none of the charm and subtlety that made his previous concert recordings so essential. The song selection is weak as it concentrates on lesser tracks from his late-'70s collections, but more problematically, the Irishman sounds like he's rushing the tunes and generally playing too loud. The arrangements bludgeon the songs behind a Wall of Sound, as Rory spits, rather than sings the lyrics, shouting above the crashing fray. This is particularly true of "Bad Penny," one of two newly added tracks for the revised 2000 edition, where Gallagher growls out the words as if they had little or no meaning, then shifts into a reggae beat that adds nothing to this version of one of his better tracks. While the live shows might have gone down well on-stage, when they're transferred to album, the excitement is lost, and instead of Gallagher's classy, snappy, eclectic mix of blues, folk, and rock, Stage Struck sounds like plodding, second-rate Bad Company or Foghat. Where both previous live discs added a few acoustic tunes as well as digging into deep blues to vary the sound and show Gallagher's versatility, this one stays firmly rooted in straightforward sluggish rock, with precious little roll. All the songs push the five-minute mark, but none have the sizzle and compactness of Gallagher's best work. He sounds like he's going though the motions for the first time in his career, making this a below par, if not quite valueless document. The two additional tunes total about 11 minutes, but the disc is at least 20 minutes short of its potential playing time. Surely there must have been other tapes from this tour of better quality to tack on here. In any case, this is a disappointing reminder that even the best artists can release inferior work. For prime live Gallagher, stick with either 1972's peppy Live in Europe, the blistering Irish Tour '74, or the terrific posthumous release BBC Sessions. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo